November 18: Trump names Flynn as his national-security adviser.
December 29: President Obama announced measures, including sanctions, on Russia for its interference in the U.S. election. The sanctions are in addition to those imposed on Moscow following its invasion in 2014 of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Flynn and Kislyak speak that day, The Washington Post reports, citing a Trump transition official. The official says sanctions weren’t discussed. Additionally, CNN reports the Russian ambassador texted Flynn on December 28.
December 30: Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will not retaliate. The Post says that prompted U.S. intelligence analysts to look for reasons why Putin declined to impose his own measures against the U.S. They found, the newspaper reported, Kislyak’s communications, including the phone call, with Flynn. Sally Yates, then the deputy attorney general, found Flynn’s comments in the call “highly significant,” the Post reported.
January 12: David Ignatius, the Post columnist, wrote that Flynn and Kislyak spoke several times on December 29, the day the sanctions were announced. “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?” Ignatius wrote. He added a Trump transition official told him the calls, which occurred before the U.S. sanctions were announced, did not cover that topic. Ignatius added:
This official later added that Flynn’s initial call was to express condolences to Kislyak after the terrorist killing of the Russian ambassador to Ankara Dec. 19, and that Flynn made a second call Dec. 28 to express condolences for the shoot-down of a Russian plane carrying a choir to Syria. In that second call, Flynn also discussed plans for a Trump-Putin conversation sometime after the inauguration. In addition, a second Trump official said the Dec. 28 call included an invitation from Kislyak for a Trump administration official to visit Kazakhstan for a conference in late January.
January 13: Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, told reporters in a conference call that Flynn and Kislyak only discussed a post-inauguration call between Trump and Putin. “That was it, plain and simple,” he said.
January 15: Pence, on CBS’s Face the Nation, said Flynn “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
January 19: Yates, the deputy attorney general, and senior intelligence officials debated what to do with the information they had on Flynn. The Post reported that FBI Director James Comey argued against notifying Trump administration officials of the communications.
January 20: Trump was inaugurated; Flynn officially became national-security adviser.
January 23: Spicer told reporters he spoke with Flynn about the issue the previous night (January 22). He said Flynn and the Russian envoy spoke once. They discussed, he said, the Russian plane crash, the Syrian civil war, Christmas, and a call between their two leaders. Yates raised the issue again with Comey, who the Post said dropped his initial opposition to briefing the administration.